On another day

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 March, 1994, 12:00am

MARCH 12, 1936 was one of those dreary days when a quarter of a million square miles of cold, dense, damp Siberian fog was drifting slowly across the South China Sea. It was so thick in Victoria Harbour that the ferries were going round in circles. The Dollar liner SS President Coolidge, with Charlie Chaplin aboard, docked 11 hours late.

After signing a few autographs Charlie headed for the Peninsula Hotel, where he held a press conference. His new film, Modern Times, had just been released and the female star Paulette Goddard and her mother were travelling with his party. It was rumoured that Charlie and Paulette were engaged, and the news hawks were out in force.

Charlie answered with aplomb the usual brilliant original questions reporters come up with on these occasions. Asked if he wanted to play Shakespeare, he remarked ''That's a tradition that hovers around comedians.'' On his personal life he was even less forthcoming, ''That's a little part of my life I like to keep to myself.'' When questioned about his trip he explained: ''I found I had three months to spare and thought it would be nice to get into warm weather after going through an American winter, and so we came away.

''I never thought it would be as cold as this in Hong Kong,'' he added bitterly.

Charlie's visit took place in the 30s. It is still written about today; but what did he actually do? The answer seems to be ''nothing''.

Two days later, the Hong Kong Telegraph reported that he ''intended to cram as much sightseeing as possible into yesterday. But Friday the 13th was unlucky and he remained instead in his suite.'' Charlie's party spent only one full day in Hong Kong. They left the next morning on the Suwa Maru for Bali. Even clowns don't go sightseeing in the fog on a Black Friday.